I arrive at the school to begin the circus workshop in the morning around 8.20am with my fingers crossed that they’ve remembered to reserve me a parking space for the van in the staff car park. Staff car parks are notoriously busy and competitive places and sometimes it can be a battle to get in with all my equipment to unload!
Once I’m parked I get to discover the school’s visitor process. In some of the more high tech school receptions, this sometimes this means I get to have my photo taken for a visitors pass at a scary hour in the morning when my face hasn’t quite woken up! Then I get to wear that badge all day to scare they children and myself with.
On a good day, I get lead to the empty school hall where I start to set up my equipment for the days workshops, I’m handed a print out of the timetable and if I’m super lucky sometimes there’s a cup of tea too!
Sometimes though there is a breakfast club happening in the hall that hasn’t been mentioned and I can’t get in to set up until they leave making it a big rush to get the hall ready on time for the first workshop. It tends to be the case that the more communication we have had before we arrive, the better the day goes.
Every school is different with its logistics, so communication before the workshop is key.
Once I’m set up, and school registers taken, it’s time for the action to begin!
Sometimes I’ll start with a short show in assembly to get the children excited about the skills they’ll be learning. For schools with lots of classes to fit in, or where the school hall is needed for lunch service meaning we lose the use of it for a couple of hours, then I’ll usually miss the show out and go straight into teaching. It’s all about giving the pupils the most amount of hands-on time, that’s the bit they really flourish with.
When you’ve been running workshops with children and young people for a while, you tend to get the feeling for a group as soon as they come into the hall.
It doesn’t take long to spot which children might need a little more encouragement with their listening skills during the instructions!
I personally have been teaching workshops for over 20 years, it’s been a passion I’ve enjoyed alongside performing. I get just as much of a buzz from controlling a class of 33 over enthusiastic 10 year olds as I do from being on stage performing in front of a huge audience.
Getting complimented by a teacher for my behaviour management skills is as high an accolade as a huge round of applause in a show!
As the workshop begins, I teach a mixture of different circus skills with a variety of tricks, it’s carefully constructed to ensure that all the children take part and learn something new.
The instructions have been honed over many workshops, to really help the children understand what they need to do to make the trick work. One thing which is really fun, is seeing the children who sometimes are slower to pick up on physical activities, get the circus tricks quickly. Their more ‘sporty’ peers are often impressed by their circus skills – and it’s a great confidence booster for those children.
My favourite type of circus day, is one where I get to work with just one or 2 groups for a full day and then culminate in a show at the end. I can spend more time progressing them to a greater depth with the skills and tricks, and learning to perform is not only a great skill for them to explore, but results in some serious sense of achievement for all involved!
Most of you reading this will understand the delights which come with ‘school logistics’… in the sacred space which is the school hall! (wouldn’t it be lovely if all schools had multiple halls for different activities to take place in – that’s the dream, isn’t it!?)
When lunchtime looms, and the hall needs to be used for dishing up 100s of plates of sausages and mash, I often have to do a little juggle (no pun intended) with the dinner staff to pack down and then set up again after the hungry diners have had their fill!
There’s definitely no overrunning a lesson when the dinner ladies are stood there waiting to set up, after years of working in schools all over the country I know that lunchtime supervisors are the most fierce breed of staff not to be messed with! They can give you a death stare like no other!
Once I’ve had my lunch in the staff room (and maybe a piece of cake as it seems to always be someone’s birthday in the staff room!), I return to the hall, with the faint smell of gravy in the air, as the afternoon session commences!
I know you teachers work incredibly hard – day in, day out, to create exciting lessons to teach let’s face it, less than exciting subjects. I come in with lots of exciting brightly coloured circus equipment and have their undivided attention, I know I have it much easier than you!
The fun doesn’t have to be just for the children though, yes you can sit at the back and catch up with some marking whilst I keep them busy, or you’re very welcome to join in and play with them! In my experience, the children absolutely love to see their teacher having a go alongside them. It’s a fantastic bonding experience for them to see their teacher try and fail and try again to succeed with them!
Once the children have all taken part in their sessions, I pack down and take the circus away again, waving a fond farewell to the school wishing you teachers well.